So you want to be a Background Actor?

After recently sharing a little about my most recent stint at a background actor, I learned that a lot of people have questions about it, so here is all the info!

What is a Background Actor?

A Background Actor, or “Extra”, is exactly what it sounds like – a performer in a film, tv show, commercial, stage show, etc. who appears in a nonspeaking role, usually in the background of the main actors in a scene.

Do you get paid? How much?

YES! You do get paid. There are occasionally unpaid opportunities (you are usually compensated in some way – whether it’s free swag or tickets to an event or something like that), but I’ve only ever done paid work.

The rate of pay depends on a lot of things – the size/budget of the film/project, the working conditions, etc. For example, you can get paid extra for overnight shoots or if you’re filming “in the elements” (rain, fog, in the water, etc.). You can also get paid extra for the use of your car. I got an upcharge on my work on Abduction because they used my car – I didn’t even have to drive it anywhere – it was just parked there!

Usually, you make an hourly rate for a day of work as a Background Actor, and you generally earn 1.5x pay after the first 8 hours (average days are 12-14 hours). Other times, they may offer a flat rate for the entirety of the day or of the entire shoot (this is more common for commercials or other short-term projects).

You also get paid for attending your wardrobe fitting, if applicable. Usually, a film has a set budget for every single element of the movie, meaning they’ve budgeted for X number of extras to be included, $X for props, $X for wardrobe, etc. When I went to my wardrobe fitting for the upcoming film You Are My Friend, I got paid a flat rate that accounted for a wardrobe fitting up to 4 hours (mine took 30 minutes!). They also compensate the max rate for the parking garage ($9), but my parking only cost $5 for the time I was there, so I just pocket the difference.  

Other compensation includes parking reimbursement, meals, snacks, and occasionally, you get really lucky and they let you keep something from your wardrobe! When I worked on The Dark Knight Rises, they let us keep the rally towels we waved all day. Honestly, it was a winter scene that we shot outside in the August heat, so I really think they just didn’t want to touch anyone’s sweaty bandanna by the end of the day. I got to keep several wardrobe pieces from my Ebates commercial shoot – this is pretty typical of commercials. They’ve got crazy big budgets and they don’t need the clothes once they’re done filming.

 I filmed an Ebates commercial in Sonoma County in April 2017!
I filmed an Ebates commercial in Sonoma County in April 2017!

What is a wardrobe fitting?

For some projects, they just need you to arrive in your own clothing. For Abduction, they needed everyone dressed for a Pirates game, so I wore my own clothes. For Concussion, they needed me in business attire, and my final outfit was a combination of some of my own pieces as well as a few selected from their wardrobe options. The scenes I worked on for You Are My Friend were a 90s wedding in New Jersey, so every piece of my wardrobe was courtesy of Sony.

 Look for me in  You Are My Friend  in theaters in 2019!
Look for me in You Are My Friend in theaters in 2019!

What is a casting call?

Production companies using casting calls to find background actors! Most major films outsource background casting to local casting agencies (more info on Pittsburgh agencies below!). Most have an option to create an online profile, but the casting calls are a great way for the agencies to find the right people for the job, and to ensure they have up-to-date photos of people in their records. Sometimes, it is solely up to the casting agencies to select extras for a project, while other times the movie’s main casting director will review the options and make final decisions.

I once submitted my information for a featured extra role on a mini-series. The local casting agency I had been working with narrowed their pool to 5 (including me) and asked us to come into meet with the director, who would select someone personally. In this case, the director was Ben Stiller! The scene included stepping out of a helicopter, and he told me that my hair, while “really beautiful”, would stand out in the scene too much, so he ultimately selected someone else. If you have to be rejected from a role, there are worse reasons than being too pretty haha!

What does being a Background Actor entail?

I’ll be honest – it’s not for the faint of heart or easily bored. An average day on set goes something like this:

7:00am (or earlier – my call times on Abduction were between 4:00 and 5:30am!): Arrival and check-in. Complete your employment paperwork. If you had a wardrobe fitting, you go and pick up your stuff from the Wardrobe crew. Get dressed and head to hair and makeup!

8:30am: Get your hair and makeup done, or get it checked by the Hair crew and Makeup Crew (these are totally separate teams of people). Most of the time, they ask background actors to arrive with their hair and makeup already done to save time. The makeup crew for You Are My Friend LOVED how I did my own makeup, so I take that as a huge compliment! It also meant I got to go get breakfast sooner haha.

 Hair and Makeup from  Concussion
Hair and Makeup from Concussion

On Concussion, I was one of only a few extras in the scene, so the hair and makeup crews did everything for me. It was mind-blowing how much hair spray they used, and even crazier when they kept doing touch-ups every 15 minutes! I had to wash my hair twice that night to get everything out.

10:00am: The catering people usually have breakfast out. Depending on schedule and the production budget, this ranges from a simple continental breakfast to a full hot breakfast buffet.

12:00pm: If the extras holding area is in a different location than the actual set, you’d probably head to set around now. You likely have another holding area on set to hang out when you’re not doing anything, which is most of the day.

2:00pm: Craft services, which is different than catering, usually has snacks and coffee out all day. On most sets, extras have their own craft services setup, while on smaller sets, you might use the same snacks and drinks as the rest of the cast and crew (this is how Will Smith and I once had coffee together!)

3:00pm: They might need you for a scene, so you’ll go and film it for a few hours (or however long it takes to get the shots they want).

5:00pm: The meal break for the day is dictated by when filming began that day, not when you arrived. So, while you might have arrived a 9am, if filming didn’t start until 12pm your lunch break wouldn’t be until 6pm (it is usually 6 hours into the “work” day). This is why craft services is so important and appreciated!

8:00pm: This is usually when they’re wrapping up for the day. As you can see, most extras have been earning 1.5x pay for several hours at this point in the day, so the daily pay looks a little sweeter now.

Most of the day, you’re hanging out in a holding area with other background actors just hanging out. I’ve met so many amazing people on the movies I’ve worked on, and it’s amazing how quickly a bond forms. I always bring a book to read as well. A physical book, not one on a device as sometimes you aren’t permitted to have your phone with you.

Here’s a great article about what it’s like being a background actor.

I’m interested! How can I become a background actor?

My experience is solely Pittsburgh-based, but I imagine the process is similar in other cities (though I’m guessing the opportunities are far more concentrated in cities like Los Angeles and New York). Here in Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have a great film tax credits, which makes it enticing and affordable for movies and shows to film here. This has resulted in a pretty constant flow of projects coming to Pittsburgh! You can learn more about the tax credit here.

A great resource for learning more about the film industry here in southwestern PA is the Pittsburgh Film Office website. They don’t have an exhaustive or constantly-updated list, but they do list casting notices on there.


Pittsburgh Casting Agencies:

Nancy Mosser Casting | Facebook

Movie Casting Pittsburgh | Facebook

Mindhunter Extras Casting | Facebook

Pittsburgh Casting (I’ve never used them before) | Facebook

Donna Belajac Casting (I’ve never used this agency either) | Facebook

I follow all these accounts on Facebook and check them for casting opportunities. If you see them post about something and you fit the description, apply FAST! They usually fill roles quickly, so you’ll want to get your information submitted as soon as possible.


This was longer that I intended it to be, but I wanted to give y’all some useful information! Do you still have questions? Comment below!

 

Flashes Forever…

I recently finished a book and came on here to tell you about it. It occurred to me that the last two times I wrote something here, it was about running friends and Des Linden winning the Boston Marathon. Today I’m talking about another badass woman, so maybe that’s what this blog is about now haha. 

If you’ve been here before, you know I read a lot. I read 52 books in 2016 and set a goal to read 30 this year (I’m already done with 26, so it’s very likely I will surpass that goal!). I read all kinds of things, from novels to professional development to auto-biographies and more. 

I can’t remember how I heard about the book “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield”, but when I did, it piqued my interest so I did what I also do: added the book to my Amazon wishlist. I keep a running list of things I like or want/need to buy so I can remember them, but also so I’ve got a ready-made Christmas list when my family requests on every year. 

The book chronicles the all-female Cultural Support Teams created in 2010 by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. These teams put women on the battlefield alongside Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other special operations teams in Afghanistan.

The women were there, with an interpreter, to search and speak with women and children. In traditional Afghan culture, American men would not be permitted anywhere near Afghan women (and the children are usually with the women). Bringing female soldiers into this unique role allowed the Army forces to reach a huge portion of the population they had previously been unable to gather intelligence from. 

To put it plainly, these women are no joke. Their physical fitness was incredible, their bravery unmatched, and their ability to maintain their femininity even in the harsh conditions of war was remarkable. They all knew they were making history in these new roles, as women had been previously barred from roles that took them anywhere near active combat. They took this responsibility seriously as they knew they were paving the way for future women in the military who wanted the opportunity to serve equally alongside men. 

 

The book is named after Ashley White Stumpf, one of the CSTs, but the book highlights the journeys of many of her fellow CSTs. I was fascinated to learn that Ashley and I actually have something in common: we both went to Kent State. In fact, we were there at the same time, though we never met (also ironic is the fact that 90% of my classes took place in White Hall, but it obviously wasn’t named for Ashley). We are also both Ohio natives, and both have a strong sense of adventure and doing our part in the world’s work. 

I won’t share any more about the book here, because you really ought to read it yourself. I have a copy you’re welcome to borrow, or you can obviously get it anywhere books are sold as well! 🙂 

Kent State actually hosts a 5k each year in tribute to Ashley and to raise funds for a scholarship in Ashley’s name. It looks like it usually occurs the last Sunday in April so one year I’d like to make it back to Kent to participate. 

Until next time…#flashesforever

 

 

Running Friends

I’ve talked about this before, but anyone who thinks running is a solo sport is doing it wrong. Running is a team sport, whether your team is Olympics-bound, sponsored by a major shoe company, a local running club, or simply a group of friends who run. 

More than I’ve ever actually loved the physical act of running, I love the people of running. The spectators, the volunteers, the elite athletes (Love you, Des Linden!), the charity runners, the coaches, and all the “regular” runners. Of course, there’s a special place in my heart for my fellow back-of-the-pack runners. We’ll never win Boston or pick up an endorsement deal, but we’re crushing personal records and achieving goals nonetheless. 

I went into Pittsburgh Marathon weekend feeling under-trained and just ready for the whole thing to be over. I knew it was going to hurt (thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as I thought). I knew I wasn’t going to have any sort of speed. I knew the whole weekend would be chaotic and would leave me feeling like I didn’t get to spend any time with dear friends who were in from out-of-town. 

Saturday brought the 5k, where I saw some of my Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation friends volunteering on the course. After that, it was back to the North Shore to meet up with my two favorite Kids of Steel. Aunt Chelsea and I once again accompanied Dex & Quinn in the Kids Marathon. This year, they ran the whole way themselves! (Last year included some piggy back rides and quite a bit of coaxing to keep walking haha). It was such a cool treat to two kids I love so much running in the streets of the city I love so much. 

I had a whole bunch of stuff written here, but it somehow got deleted, so I had to try and remember what I wrote about. I feel like I’m missing a paragraph or two, but oh well. Here’s the rest:

Chelsea and I had already talked about running the half together and just taking it easy and having fun. Until we actually started running that day, I wondered whether we were defining “slow” the same way or if I’d be holding her back. Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, we were in sync. We kind of followed a run-walk but took longer walk breaks whenever we felt like it (or whenever we were crossing a bridge that appeared to be 900 miles long). Towards the end of the race, I told her how glad I was that we had decided to run together because I knew I would have been much slower had I been on my own. Going into the race, I honestly thought anything under 3 hours would be a win, but that I could probably do under 2:50. We finished in 2:41:09! Certainly not my best time, but actually not my slowest either. I guess that goes to show that not all of my conditioning was lost.

After recovering and seeing my family, we headed back out onto the course to find Coach Jeff. We had planned on running the last mile or so with him, but he was speeding along at a pace neither Chelsea or I could maintain (especially having already run a half marathon that morning), so we met up with him again in the Finish Line Festival, got some food, and once again headed out to the course to cheer on runners. By now, marathoners were coming through in somewhere around the 6-hour mark and it was POURING rain. Ashley from P3R graciously invited us up into (now) empty covered VIP Finish Line viewing tent where we were able to cheer for people.

The finish line of a marathon is a magical place. There were people running solo, friends sticking together, and everyone with a determined look on their face. We met a 75-year-old man who just completed the marathon. A 75-year-old. Who ran 26.2 miles. In the rain. Like a badass. Seriously, runners are a rare breed.

Here’s to crossing another finish line with my BRF and heading into summer ready to train for a fall marathon (or two? Am I that crazy?)!

Tell me about your running friends in the comments below!

Helping her helped me.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know by now that Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon yesterday, in arguably some of the worst weather conditions a runner can compete in (thank you, 5439238672265th day of winter…). 

 Source: New York Magazine
Source: New York Magazine

Des decided early on that yesterday wasn’t her day (spoiler: it was SO her day). She thought she’d drop out due to the miserable weather and because she wasn’t feeling great. Many people would have just dropped out and made their way to a warm shower and dry clothes as quickly as possible. But Des decided to use the gas left in her tank to help others, specifically her fellow American runners. 

When you work together, you never know what’s going to happen. Helping her helped me.

— Desiree Linden, on helping Shalane Flanagan during the 2018 Boston Marathon

She hung back when Shalane Flanagan made a restroom stop, and offered to block the wind for her. When is the last time someone offered to block the wind for you? Whether literal or metaphorical wind, when is the last time you blocked the wind to help someone else succeed?

Not only did Desiree Linden win the Boston Marathon, she was the first American woman to do so since 1985. American women claimed seven of the top eight spots. Who run the world? BADASS WOMEN. 

I’m passionate about helping others succeed, whether that means cheering them on via social media, running alongside them in a race, helping them start their own business and get their nutrition on track, or connecting with them others who can also support them in reaching their goals. It gives me so much satisfaction to see people making their dreams a reality. 

I’m going to channel my inner Desiree Linden in the coming weeks and focus on how I can “block the wind” for people, even if that means helping them get out of their own way and start believing in themselves. 

How do you block the wind for others? 

 

 

All Aboard!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw that I recently took a trip to Chicago. One of my business partners mentioned a training she was attending and I realized I was free that day and jumped at the chance to finally meet her in person after knowing each other from the internet for so many years (and going into business together!). It was a quick trip – out and back in the same day. I was trying to keep the trip as inexpensive as possible, so it was great not having to pay for a hotel. I found a flight out on Southwest for about $90, but couldn’t find a flight back in the time frame I needed for less than $300. 

I’ve taken the Amtrak train before, and I knew that the Pittsburgh-Chicago routes (in either direction) are overnight rides, so I looked up times to see if I could make that work. I’ve actually had a goal for a while to take a multi-day train trip, so I figured this might be an excellent trial run to see if I *actually* want to take a train trip that long, or if it’s way less glamorous than it sounds.

There are usually a few different options on Amtrak:
Coach: This is the most basic option. It usually includes an unreserved seat, though you can reserve a specific seat on some routes
Business Class: This included a reserved seat in a dedicated business class car, and all meals, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages are included. This is a great option for…you guessed it…business travelers. I’ve taken Business Class to Philadelphia before and found it was a great way to get work done. The car wasn’t crowded and was pretty quiet. 
Roomette: This is a tiny reserved cabin that seats/sleeps 1-2 people. Meals/snacks/drinks are included. More on this in a moment.
Room/Family Cabin: These are larger reserved cabins that have more beds/space. They’re good for anywhere from 1-6 people, depending on the cabin you choose. Meals/snacks/drinks are included. 

I selected a Roomette for my trip back from Chicago and the ticket was $190. It included two chairs that fold down into a bed, and there’s an additional bunk that folds down from above. There’s a small closet, fold-out tables for both chairs, and a small shelf for storing luggage. Larger luggage can be stored on the racks in the car. The Roomette was a perfect option for 1 traveler. It would be feasible for 2 people, but would actually be pretty crowded (particularly for a trip longer than a night or so). 

 The Roomette!
The Roomette!

 

There were bathrooms in the car, and showers as well. I didn’t use the showers but towels (and bed linens) are all provided for your use.

As I mentioned, meals are included. I boarded the train around 6:00pm for a 6:40 departure. A car attendant came around and asked when I’d like my bed made up (turn-down service is also included!) and what time I’d like to be seated for dinner. I was pretty tired from my early morning flight, so I opted for a 7:00 dinner seating (the first available) and asked to have my bed made up at 7:30 so it would be ready when I returned from dinner. He also let me know that he’d knock on my cabin door about 30 minutes before my arrival in Pittsburgh, since they observe quiet hours overnight and don’t make announcements over the PA system (except for emergencies, of course).

Dinner was a 3-course affair. I was seated with two men who were also traveling alone and we had a great conversation about train travel. One of them had texted a former student of his who lives along the train tracks and he flashed his porch lights as we passed by haha. I started with a salad and then ordered the surf & turf option (go big or go home, right?!). The steak was decent for being prepared on a moving train and the crab cake was pretty good as well. I finished with a chocolate raspberry tart that was delicious! I also had a half-bottle of wine (they sell wine by the single-serving bottle or half-bottle). Wine was not included, but was very reasonably priced. 

You can also order food to go and take it back to your seat/cabin. There’s also a snack/lounge car and if I had still been on the train when breakfast service started, that would have been included in my ticket as well. 

I returned to my roomette to find my bed all ready to go! I used the restroom to change into sweats (my jammies for the night!) and got ready for bed. There are curtains on both sides of the roomette that velcro closed to keep the light out. There’s a nightlight if you need it, but I found that the light from under the crack in the cabin door was sufficient. 

 Bed is ready!
Bed is ready!

The noise level in the cabin, especially once I had the door closed, was actually pretty minimal. Though there was only one other couple traveling in my car that night, so perhaps it might be louder if the car was full. I do recommend bringing a pair of ear plugs though as the train horn can be annoying (especially if it’s not a sound you’re used to hearing in your sleep. If you live near a train track, you probably don’t need them haha!)

When traveling by train in the future, I will bring my own pillow, or at the very least, my own pillow case. The sheets were adequate, but kind of itchy for my taste. I will also bring Static Guard or dryer sheets. The blankets were wrapped in plastic and were VERY static-y. I didn’t plan on using the showers (and didn’t), but obviously I’ll bring shower shoes for future trips. 

I didn’t know this beforehand, but Business Class and Sleeper Car accommodations also include lounge access at the train station. In Chicago, there was a nice lounge with showers, luggage storage (perfect if you needed a place to stow bags while you explore the city!) and snacks and drinks. You check in with the attendant there and they’ll alert you when it’s time to board and direct you to the right track. I wasn’t there in enough time to really check out the lounge, but now I know for the future! 

There is wifi on the trains, but it can be spotty at times, so don’t bank on this. I pretty much went straight to bed, but in the future I’d make sure my iPad is stocked with downloaded books, movies, tv shows, etc. There are outlets in the cabin to charge devices (there are outlets at your seats in the regular cars as well!). 

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience and learned so much for my future, longer trips. A friend of mine took the train from Chicago to San Francisco in December, and I got some great tips from him as well! He really enjoyed the experience and got some stunning photos of the scenery he saw along the way. 

While it takes longer to get to your destination, train travel is probably one of the least stressful ways to travel. You’re not stuck in traffic, delayed at the airport with crappy food options (shaking my fist at you, LaGuardia!) and you get to relax and take in the scenery! 

It goes without saying you should enroll in Amtrak’s rewards program if you’re going to travel via train. Never let those points go uncollected! They also have a great magazine that I recommend as well (though I LOVE airline magazines so maybe this is just my thing). 

I’m looking forward to my next train trip! 

Has anyone else taken the train before? What was your experience like? Do you have additional tips? Share them in the comments! 

New Hard Drive Who Dis?

After a particularly stressful few weeks of unexpected work travel, my hard drive decided to put the icing on the cake by dying. There was no warning or indication that something was amiss. I put my computer to sleep after finishing up notes from a 9pm conference call and went to bed. The next morning, I opened my computer and went to start ‘er up like I’ve done hundreds of times before and I got a “Boot Error” and the BIOS Utility opened. I have no idea what any of that means so I did what any normal person would do – I texted a picture of the screen to my Brother-In-Law. He said it might be due to a corrupt file or any number of things and suggested taking it to a pro (especially since this is my work computer). 

I made an appointment with GeekSquad and upon initial review, he said the computer wasn’t even recognizing that it had a hard drive. I asked if there was some sort of Craigslist Missed Connections option to reintroduce my computer to its hard drive (there wasn’t). My new pal at Geek Squad walked me through some options, all of which included getting a brand new hard drive. 

As a result of this process, I’ve got some tips for you on what to do ahead of time in case you ever find yourself in my shoes, as well as tips for what to do once your hard drive is replaced and you’re staring at a clean slate. Here they are!

1. Back up your files (and do so frequently!). This one’s pretty obvious, and thanks to the Cloud, this is achieved pretty easily. All of my documents are saved on Dropbox or Google Drive, and I’ve also got everything backed up to an external hard drive. I’m a little anal, so I’ve also got a second external hard drive that I keep in my fireproof lockbox along with other vital documents. I highly recommend you invest in an external hard drive if you don’t already have one! You can usually hook them up to your wireless router and then they work like the Cloud – you can sync files over your wifi connection. Also, don’t make a habit of saving files locally to your desktop. While I know I didn’t lose anything critical, it is driving me insane knowing I had files on my desktop but not knowing what they were. 

2. Keep a list of all your installed programs and any license keys. You should keep this list on the Cloud, or your phone, or somewhere besides your computer. This will save you the frustration of trying to remember if you reinstalled everything correctly and digging through emails to find license keys for any paid accounts you may have. 

3. Sync your browser. If you’re a Chrome user, did you know you can sync your browser settings, extensions, and bookmarks to your Google Account? This saves you a LOT of time and keeps all your favorites/links organized just how you had them before.

4. GeekSquad (or something similar) can be a lifesaver. As I mentioned, this incident occurred on my work computer, and we had purchased a GeekSquad protection plan when the computer was purchased. This saved me several hundred dollars as the hew hard drive and installation fees were all covered under the plan. 

Bonus: Get yourself a sweet new desktop background to make it feel less sterile. My favorites are from The Everygirl and they roll out new ones every month! 

Have you ever had to replace your hard drive? Do you have any tips for surviving this process with ease? Comment below! 

How I Stay Organized (Part 1?)

I use a lot of apps and tools to stay organized and productive, and today I’d like to share some of those with you. Maybe this is the first of a series of blog posts on the topic? Let me know what you think, and what you’d like to see more of. 

1. Evernote

For those who don’t know, I work from home. I have been a remote employee since Day 1 of my current job and it’s the first remote job I’ve had. It was certainly an adjustment and I had to figure out how to structure my time, stay organized and keep track of everything. One of the things I realized very early on was that I needed a way to take notes during meetings (conference calls). I experimented with a few other options before settling on Evernote. I love how I can have separate notebooks for different things (personal, work, old work stuff that I still want to hold on to, standing items/quick reference, etc.). Within notebooks, I can tag things by subject. My notes sync across my devices so I can make my grocery list on my desktop and then access it on my phone at the store! They have a great companion app, Scannable, which has pretty much eliminated the need for a traditional scanner device.

2. Asana

This was another tool I discovered for work in my remote job. I was looking for a way to share task lists with my staff. I played around with some Google Sheets for a while, but found they were too simple for what we wanted to do, but full-blown Project Management programs (like Microsoft Project, for example) were way to complex and offered way more than we needed. Asana is in that perfect sweet spot of helpful features and team collaboration tools, but is super user-friendly and simple to use. While we use it a lot for shared projects at work (such as Convention prep where there are so many moving parts), I also use it to set agendas for meetings (so my staff and I can both add things we need to discuss ahead of time, and I can easily delegate tasks as a result of the meeting). Personally, I’ve used it for planning big projects in my volunteer life (like developing some social media plans for this blog as well as the Zelienople Horse Trading Days social media accounts that I manage). Again, it syncs across devices, which I LOVE. 

3. GTasks App

This one is strictly an iOS app (though I’m sure there are Android options as well). I use Google Calendar for my main calendar, and I like to use the tasks feature to keep track of random tasks (like “schedule Ziva’s groomer appointment” or “buy birthday card for Luke” and things like that). While Google Calendar has a great iOS app, it does not incorporate tasks and this always annoyed me. Finally, I found GTasks, which syncs your Google Calendar tasks to their app on your phone. You can also make additional tasks lists, though I prefer things to sync across devices (in case you couldn’t tell that from the first two apps on this list). I’ve also found this useful for things I remember when I’m out and about that I want to take care of the next time I’m at my desk – I pop the task into my iOS app and then boom! It shows up on my computer when I log in! 

4. Dashlane

Dashlane is a secure password manager. Not only does it store all of my login info and passwords, it will also auto-login on websites and auto-fill forms, saving me time that would otherwise be spent looking up passwords (because I can’t remember that website’s dumb password rules which are different from every other website’s dumb password rules). Again, this syncs across devices! This is a paid subscription service, but I have found it to be such a worthwhile investment. Its features include a random password generator and a password analysis tool, which both keep my accounts more secure! 

What are your favorite organizational tools/apps? Comment below! Also let me know if this is something you’d like to see more of on the blog! 

Five Things Friday: 2.9.2018

It’s been a busy week, and I wondered if I’d hit my goal of at least one blog post or not, but here we go! 

1. I’ve decided to switch from the full marathon to the half for Pittsburgh. Training has been nonexistent the past few months, and the pressure to try and catch up at this point just isn’t worth it. I’m looking forward to adjusting my training schedule on my calendar and building a great base for what will be my 11th half marathon! [Click HERE to learn more about my fundraising efforts and to make a donation!]

2. I’m speaking at a student leadership conference on saturday on the topic of time management and ironically, I’m finishing the presentation prep somewhat last minute. Leave me your best time management tips in the comments below! 

3. My nutrition company just launched a brand new app that I’m pretty stoked for. As someone who loves fitness trackers and checklists, this app is everything I’ve been dreaming of! It’s a great way to track your health and wellness goals all in one place, and it’s also (obviously) designed to help people stay on track with using the products. I’ll be attending my company’s national celebration event in Nashville in August, and I’m SO excited to connect with my team, receive training, and of course, enjoy some southern food (#thebalancedlife). If you’re interested in learning about what the heck these products are, or what the app’s like, drop me a line in the comments or send me a message on the Contact page. 

4. My dear friend Nik wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about airport travel. I think Nik is great, and his opinions are great, and this post was no exception. Check it out and subscribe! 

5. If you aren’t following Jessie over at 15Minutes_Late, you are missing out. Not only is her Instagram feed chock full of gorgeous and wanderlust-inducing travel photos, she also gives great tips and advice on how she uses meal planning and meal prep to save money (so she can fund those amazing trips!). I look forward to her weekly grocery haul pics each week, and to all of her recipe ideas! 

GROCERY HAUL! 🥑🥦🍊 $61.63 at @aldiusa this week! Bonus points and a gold star to whoever can tell me how many 🥑 are in this grocery haul! ⭐️ . Still working to clean some things out of the freezer this week – but still managed to spend plenty of $$$. . Both the “recipes” for our lunches are in my STORIES right now! So go check it out. . And if you peep my grocery list you’ll notice a few things on the list, but not in my haul, and a few things in my haul that weren’t on my list. It was WAYYYY cheaper to buy guacamole than to make my own. REAL TALK. 😳 And those lobster & crab ravioli are amazing. So when I saw them I couldn’t resist. 😍 . 👇🏼Here’s what’s on the menu this week! . BREAKFAST 🍯 Overnight oats for me 👉🏼 1 x strawberry chocolate, 2 x chocolate covered blueberry + 1 x chocolate coconut 👉🏼 AKA cleaning out some frozen fruit. 🍳 Eggs + avocado for him. . LUNCH 🥡 Egg roll in a bowl 👉🏼 verified amazing, I had a few bites to make sure. 🥘 Chicken curry w/ rice & broccoli. . DINNER 🍕Homemade pizza w/ 2️⃣ ingredient dough. 🍤 Bang bang shrimp pasta w/ mushrooms & broccoli. 🐟 “Mystery” fish (I can’t remember what kind is in the freezer) + rice & broccoli. 🌭 Sausage hoagies w/ peppers & onions + sweet & sour cabbage. 🌮 Tacos 😍 . Is anyone eating anything tasty for the Super Bowl tonight? Well probably end up Netflix binging instead, but I’m using it as an excuse to eat pizza. 🏈🍕🤷🏼‍♀️ . . . . . #eatrealfood #mealplanning #mealprepmadesimple #healthycooking #foodforfuel #foodforthought #mealprepsociety #healthyfoodshare #mealprepideas #howtomealprep #mealprepdaily #mealideas #foodisfuel #mealpreponfleek #foodgram #mealprepping #freshproduce #eatyourveggies #healthyeating #balanceddiet #groceryshopping #groceryhaul #grocerybudget #easymeals #budgetmeals #forkyeah #fooddiary #ALDIgram #eattherainbow #cookingfortwo

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Hope everyone has a great weekend! OVER TO YOU: What are your best time management tips and tricks for college students? Share in the comments below! 

Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and true to form, it snowed here today. Personally, I’m pretty much over winter and ready for spring time (or at the very least, temperatures above 25F on a regular basis). 

It’s Groundhog Day, and while I’m not stuck in a time warp like Bill Murray, I am going to write about a topic I’ve mentioned before, because it’s a topic worth mentioning again and again. 

For the fourth year in a row, I am fundraising for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of Western PA/West Virginia as part of the Pittsburgh Marathon’s Run for a Reason program. 

The concept is pretty simple: runners can choose their race (5k, Half, Full, or Relay) and the charity of their choice (there are SO many wonderful organizations who participate!). They set you up with a fundraising page and as long as you meet your minimum fundraising requirement, your race registration is FREE! 

Something in particular that I really love about the Run for a Reason program is that the funds raised stay local. Even though many of the charities are national organizations, the money raised stays within their local chapter or branch, benefitting people right here in PIttsburgh! 

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is an awesome organization nationally, and the local chapter certainly holds a very special place in my heart. I have found such a great community of friends who are also affected by Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. We support one another, cheer each other on, and even star in each other’s documentaries! For real, my talented friend Carey filmed a documentary in the fall that I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE. Sure, it’s probably vain to be excited about a documentary you are a subject in, but my friends have some amazing stories to tell, and I can’t wait to share them with the world. Here’s the trailer:

The Stool: Pittsburgh TC Friends Trailer from Carey McKelvey on Vimeo.

The Crohn’s & Colitis does so much for patients and their families. They provide support groups, clinical research trials, news and information about treatment options, camps for kids, research grants, and so much more. There is NO cure for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, but each day doctors and scientists get closer to discovering what causes these awful diseases and how to prevent it. Thanks to this important work, I hope to someday be able to say “I HAD Crohn’s Disease, but I’m cured and healthy now!”. 

I’ve set a goal to raise $1000 this year. Currently, I’ve raised $300 and am committed to doubling that by the end of February. Sometimes people think small donations don’t really matter, that they aren’t enough to make a difference. THAT IS BANANAS. Every dollar counts, and everyone’s “small” donations add up to make a big difference. If your company offers corporate matching (hey, PNC employees!), now is a great time to take advantage of that! So what are you waiting for? Make your donation today!

Do you have questions about Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis that you’ve always wanted to ask me? Comment below or send me a message on the Contact page! 



Five Things Friday: 1.26.2018

First things first, if you’re new to my blog, WELCOME! 

It’s my first Five Things Friday of the year! Here goes…

1. Marathon training has been completely on hold this month due to work travel and illness (and the ridiculously cold temperatures we’ve had this month – I just don’t handle the cold well). I’m hoping to get back into a better routine (or any routine) next week. I’m grateful I’ve been able to keep my nutrition on track thanks to some amazing products that get delivered to my door and I use every single day.

2. I’m on the Partners Board at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and we had our first meeting last week. The Trust is embarking on a new strategic plan and we’ve got a TON of fun things planned for 2018. Now is a better time than ever to consider becoming a member – there are SO many benefits. Mark your calendars now for Cultured Cocktails, coming April 28!

3. Anybody else check their credit score every week? Just me? I have a standing reminder on my calendar to log in to Credit Karma and get my free updated score each week! It is one of my many great tools I use to keep track of my financial picture. I’m planning to do a longer blog post on this soon!

4. My new Instagram BFFs are Little Miss Lola Doodle and The Cutest Clementine. Seriously, how can you not love these two?!?! 

5. I’m not planning much travel for 2018 (because I’m saving for a Eurotrip!) but I am thinking about squeezing in a trip to Chicago in March (thank you, free hotel nights!). Send me your restaurant recommendations! 

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Happy Friday everyone!